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Gift of 
Mrs. Lawrence C. Lockley 










Entrrtd According to Act of Congrttt, in tlu KMT 1881. 

In tlu Office of tht Librarian of Congrttt. 




George Gemiinder was born at Ingelfingen, 
in the kingdom of Wurtemburg, on the I3th of 
April, 1816. 

His father was a maker of bow instruments, 
and it was, therefore, from Gemiinder's earliest 
youth that he devoted himself to the same art 
and the studies connected with it. 

When he left school, it was suggested to his 
father that George should become a school- 
master, as he at the time wrote the finest 
hand and executed the best designs of any 
among his classmates. His father was not 



averse to this proposal and decided to carry 
it out. George was, accordingly, directed to 
prepare for the seminary. The plan was not, 
however, in accordance with his own tastes or 
inclinations, and he followed it for a period of 
but three weeks, only to abandon it finally and 
forever, to take up that employment which 
accorded with his natural gift and gave scope 
for the development of his genius. 

After his father's death, which occurred when 
George was in his nineteenth year, he went 
abroad, and worked variously at Pesth, Pres- 
burg, Vienna and Munich. Fortune smiled 
upon him, and more than once an opportunity 
was presented of establishing a business ; but 
nothing that promised simply commonplace 
results and a commonplace life could attract 
his eye, since his mind, aspiring to improve- 
ment in his art, was constantly impelling him 
toward that celebrated manufacturer of violins, 
Vuillaume, at Paris. He plainly saw that in 
Germany he could not reach in the art that 
degree of accomplishment for which he strove, 
and, therefore, he resolved to find, if possible, 
at Strasburg, such a position as he had had at 
Munich. Through the mediation of a friend 
be obtained a call to go to a manufacturer of 


musical instruments at Strasburg ; but upon 
his arrival he was astonished to learn that the 
man was a maker of brass instruments ! Here 
was a dilemma. Disappointed in his effort to 
find employment, winter at the door and far 
away from home, what could he do ? The man- 
ufacturer, whose name was Roth, perceiving 
his perturbation, was kind enough to ask Ge- 
miinder to remain in his house until he should 
have succeeded in finding such a position 
as he desired. Gemunder accepted the prof- 
ered kindness, and after the lapse of six weeks 
he formed the acquaintance of a gentleman 
with whom he afterward became intimate, 
and who promised to write for Gemunder a 
letter of recommendation and send it to Vuil- 
laume at Paris. Meanwhile Gemunder re- 
mained in Strasburg. One day, while taking 
a walk in the park called " Die Englishen An- 
lagen," he seated himself on a bench and 
shortly fell asleep. In his sleep he heard a 
voice which seemed to say : " Don't give way ; 
within three days your situation will change !" 
The voice proved prophetic, for on the third 
day after the dream his friend came to him 
with a letter from Vuillaume, which contained 
the agreeable intelligence that Gemunder 


should go to Paris. The invitation was prompt- 
ly accepted and Gemiinder immediately start- 
ed on his journey. When he arrived at Vuil- 
laume's another difficulty was encountered, for 
Vuillaume had mistakenly supposed that Ge- 
miinder spoke French. By mere good fortune 
it happened at the time of Gemiinder's arrival 
that a German professor was giving music les- 
sons to Vuillaumc's twin daughters, who in the 
capacity of interpreter informed Gemiinder 
that M. Vuillaume was sorry to have induced 
him to come to Paris, because it would be im- 
possible to get along in his house without 
French. Vuillaume kindly offered to pay Ge- 
miinder's traveling expenses from Paris back 
to Strasburg, but said, however, that should 
the latter be satisfied with nominal wages at 
first, he would give him thirty sous a day until 
he should have learned enough of the language 
to be able to get along. Gemiinder accept- 
ed the proposition, which greatly astonished 
Vuillaume because he had not supposed that 
Gemiinder would be contented with such small 
wages ! Then he showed him a violin and 
violoncello as models of his manufacture, and 
asked him if he could make instruments like 
those. The answer being in the affirmative, 


Vuillaume smiled, for he was sure it could not 
be done. On the following day he provided 
Gemiinder with materials for making a new 
violin, in order to see what he could do. He 
soon perceived that Gemiinder possessed more 
theoretical than practical knowledge. When 
the violin was finished, he made him under- 
stand that their way of working was different, 
and he desired to have his own methods 
adopted. Gemiinder did his best, and being a 
good designer, he soon acquired a knowledge 
of the different characters of the propagated 
Italian school in regard to the construction of 

After the lapse of three months Gemunder's 
wages were increased ten sous a day, and 
although he now saw his most heartfelt 
desire fulfilled, namely, to work in Vuil- 
laume 's manufactory, yet he did not find it 
possible to stay there permanently, because 
his fellow-workmen, who had observed the 
kindness with which their employer had treated 
his new workman, became filled with feelings 
of jealousy, and resolved to harrass him and 
compel him if possible to leave. So thoroughly 
did they succeed in embittering his life, that 
Gemiinder finally resolved to leave Vuillaume 



and go to America, and with this firmly fixed 
in his mind he began his preparations secretly 
to carry out his plan. 

When everything was ready, he went to 
Vuillaume to make known his intention and to 
explain to him the cause of his leaving. The 
latter, astonished at this intelligence, declared 
that Gemunder should not leave his house at 
all, and assured him that he would not meet 
with further unkindness from his fellow-work- 
men, even if all should be dismissed, although 
some of them had already been in his manu- 
factory for many years. He further assured 
Gemunder that should he not desire to remain 
Paris, he would establish him in a business 
similar to his own, either in Germany or else- 
where, but he dissuaded him from going to 
America, for the reason that the art of violin 
making was not sufficiently understood there 
at that time. This kindness and benevolence 
upon the part of his employer so touched his 
heart that he was constrained to remain, and 
he began to construe!: new violins, in some of 
which he imitated the Italian character thor- 
oughly, and also to repair injured violins. 

One day Vuillaume handed Gemunder a vio- 
lin, with the remark that he wished him to do 


his best work in repairing it, for a gentleman 
from Russia had sent it. Vuillaume especially 
called Gemiinder's attention to a certain place 
in the back which was to be repaired, which 
was almost invisible, and he gave Gemiinder a 
magnifying glass for his assistance, but Gemiin- 
der returned it, saying that he could do better 
with his naked eyes, and when finished Vuil- 
laume might examine it with the glass. When 
completed, the work proved to be all that 
Vuillaume had wished, and satisfied the owner 
of the instrument so thoroughly that in his 
ecstasy of delight he presented Vuillaume, in 
addition to the payment for his work, with a 
costly Russian morning gown. 

On the return of Ole Bull from America, in 
l<?45, that distinguished performer brought his 
wonderful "Caspar da Salo " violin to Vuil- 
laume to be repaired, and requested the latter 
to do the work himself, as it was something 
about which he was very particular ; but Vuil- 
laume answered that he had a German in his 
workshop who could do it better than he. Im- 
pelled by curiosity to become acquainted with 
this German, he asked to be shown to the 
place. After some conversation, Gemiinder 
undertook the repairing of the violin and com- 


pleted it in as masterly a manner as he did in 
the case of the Russian gentleman. 

After an interval of three years, while Ge- 
miinder was still working at Vuillaume's, the 
latter showed him a violin and asked his opinion 
about it. Gemunder, having examined it, re- 
plied that it was made by some one who had 
no school ! " I expelled to hear this," re- 
turned Vuillaume, "and now let me tell you, 
that this violin is the very same that I engaged 
you to make when you came to me. I show it 
only that you may recognize what you are now 
and what you were then /" Gemunder was not 
only surprised, but amazed, and would hardly 
have believed it possible. This incident is only 
mentioned to show that as long as the eye has 
not been fully cultivated, those who fancy them- 
selves to be artists are not such, and in reality 
they cannot distinguish right from wrong. 
Gemunder has often experienced this in Amer- 
ica. He knows no other violin maker who de- 
serves to be compared with Vuillaume in this 
respect, for he correctly understood the charac- 
ter of the outline and form as well as the interi- 
or structure of the different Italian instruments. 

Towards the end of 1847, when Gemunder 
had been four years at Vuillaume's, his two 


brothers, who were in America, invited him to 
go there, as the interest in and taste for 
music was improving and they intended to give 
concerts. Gemiinder therefore determined to 
accept this invitation and left Paris. He 
arrived in November, at Springfield, Mass., 
and, meeting his brothers, arrangements for 
concerts were made with an agent, who en- 
gaged several other artists to make up the 
company. The instrumental quartet consisted 
of a clarinet, violin, flute and bass guitar. This 
music made quite a sensation, and the houses 
were always crowded, yet the Gemiinder broth- 
ers did not receive anything from the proceeds. 
They soon comprehended that they had had too 
much confidence in their agent, and after the 
lapse of a week they gave up the speculation. 
For George Gemiinder, who had then very 
little knowledge of the English language, 
which fact increased the 'difficulty of his posi- 
tion, there remained no other choice but to 
settle as a violin maker. He borrowed from a 
friend twenty-five dollars, and with this money 
he set out for Boston, Mass., and established 
himself there. The violins which he made he 
sold at fifty dollars each, and made repairs at 
low prices. 


In 1851, when the first exhibition of Lon- 
don took place, Gemiinder sent a quartet of 
bow instruments, in imitation of Stradivarius, 
and one violin according to Joseph Guarnerius. 
and another according to Nicholas Amati. 

As his business in Boston did not prove suf- 
ficiently lucrative, Gemiinder left the city after 
eighteen months, without waiting for news of 
the result of the exhibition, and established 
business in New York. Later he learned that 
his instruments had received the first premium 
at the exhibition. 

When, in the following year, 1852, Gemiin- 
der received his instruments back from the ex- 
hibition, he learned that Ole Bull was in New 
York again, and, as he had formed his acquaint- 
ance in Paris, he paid him a visit and gave in- 
formation that he had established himself in 
New York, and also that he had obtained the 
first premium at the London exhibition. Ole 
Bull was highly astonished at this news, as he 
said " Vuillaume is the best violin maker, 
and I have on one of my violins the best 
-specimen of his workmanship as a repairer." 
He thereupon showed Gemiinder his " Caspar 
da Salo." " Here," he said, " look at it, find 
the place where the repair was made." But 


Gemunder replied : " Sir, have you entirely 
forgotten that when you went with your violin 
to Vuillaume, he made you acquainted with a 
German in his studio, whom he directed to re- 
pair this ' Caspar da Salo* violin, and that this 
German was myself?" Upon hearing this a 
light seemed to break upon his mind, and he 
exclaimed, " Yes, yes, I do remember. Now 
you shall become in America what Vuillaume 
is in Europe." 

Meanwhile the advantages which might have 
been derived from the London exhibition were 
lost, in consequence of Gemiinder's removal 
from Boston and establishing business at New 
York. Spohr, Thalberg, Vieuxtemps and 
many more of such authorities, examined his 
violins in the exhibition and were much sur- 
prised at the excellent qualities of the instru- 
ments. Spohr observed : " These are the 
first new violins that I ever saw, tried and 
liked !" When they were played upon by him 
and others, they attracted hundreds of admi- 
rers and would have been sold at high prices 
had Gemunder not failed to make arrange- 
ments to dispose of them. 

The results obtained at Paris and Vienna 
were similar, his instruments attracting much 


attention in each exhibition. In the Vien- 
na Exposition, held in 1873, Gemiinder gained 
the greatest triumph that was ever ob- 
tained by any violin maker. The " Kaiser " 
violin sent by Gemiinder in response to an 
offer of a prize for the best imitation, was de- 
clared by the professional judges to be a 
renewed original ; a genuine Guarnerius not 
only in regard to its outer appearance and 
character, but also as to its wonderful qual- 
ity of tone and ease with which the tones 
come. To find these qualities in a new 
violin was beyond all expectation, since it 
had hitherto been taken for granted that 
such a result could not be obtained, because 
that object had been the unsuccessful study 
of different makers for hundreds of years. 
This proves, therefore, to the musical world, 
that Gemiinder has solved that problem which 
has generally been considered impossible. In 
spite of all this, however, Gemiinder had 
learned by painful experience that the prejudice 
existing among most of the violinists was not 
to be wiped out. These people are incapable 
of judging reasonably, and it is easier for them 
to say that Gemiinder makes his new violins of 
wood prepared by a chemical process, or that 


it has not yet been proven that his violins have 
kept their good quality for an extended period 
of time, notwithstanding that Gemiinder has 
been constructing violins in America since 
1847, an d that nobody can prove that any 
violin of his making has lost its quality of tone. 
On the contrary, they have invariably proved 
good. Gemiinder, however, confesses that a 
few of his first made violins in America do 
not equal those of his present construction in 
regard to tone and varnish. The cause of it 
was that Gemiinder being unacquainted with 
the woods of the new country, was not so suc- 
cessful at first in the choice of wood for his 
violins, and naturally would not be until his 
experience had improved. The prejudice 
above referred to would, however, be likely to 
exist for another century, could Gemiinder live 
for that length of time among those people, 
the most of whom would persevere in their 

The impracticability of the theory of using 
chemically prepared wood for violins is suffi- 
ciently understood at the present time to ren- 
der it useless to pursue the discussion in 
these pages. Gemiinder has informed himself 
as to the degree of success attained in the use 


of the different chemical preparations of wood, 
as well as those prepared with borax, by which, 
the inventor asserts, the wood becomes rich- 
er in tone and lasts longer than that which 
is left in its natural state. Yet, without oppos- 
ing the inventor, Gemiinder follows the prin- 
ciple of the old Italian violin makers, because 
their productions have been in use to this day ; 
therefore the material left in its natural state 
has proved good and has satisfied the musical 
world for these three hundred years. He has 
indeed succeeded in constructing new violins 
of material in its natural state, which produce 
not only an extraordinary power of tone, but 
also a strikingly equal quality of tone, and the 
quality of easy speaking, and the outward ap- 
pearance of the old violins has been so faith- 
fully imitated that he who has not been told 
the fact, will take them for genuine instruments 
made by Stradivarius, Guarnerius, Maggini, 
Amati, and others. 

It is therefore assuming not too much to say 
that George Gemiinder has surpassed in this 
art all the violin makers of the present and 
past times ; for where the Italian masters ended 
with their knowledge, George Gemunder com- 
menced and improved, which fact can be 


proved to the satisfa&ion of every critic ; for 
George Gemiinder has not only gained the 
same results as those achieved by Stradivarius 
and others, but he has sketched a better acous- 
tic principle for producing tone. It is for this 
reason that August Wilhelmj, the great violin- 
ist, calls George Gemiinder the greatest violin 
maker of all times, for Wilhelmj had learned 
by ample trial of the instruments made by 
George Gemiinder that they were incontestably 
all that the latter claimed for them. Wilhelmj 
admired Gemiinder's " Kaiser " violin at the 
Vienna Exhibition, as it was the only violin of 
importance which attracted his attention, and 
this aroused within him the desire to become 
personally acquainted with its maker. By 
means of his renown as the great violin virtu- 
oso, an engagement was offered him to go 
to America, which he accepted, and thus his 
wish was fulfilled. On the day after his arrival 
in New York, Wilhelmj went to see Gemiinder 
at Astoria, and from that time has been Ge- 
miinder's friend and admirer. 

Wilhelmj and other artists have expressed 
astonishment that a man of George Gemiin- 
der's capabilities in this art was to be found in 
America. Although he enjoys the highest 


renown in his art, yet he lives in a country in 
which the appreciation of that art is still in its 
development ; for the number of amateurs such 
as are found in Europe, who spend enormous 
sums in instruments, is very small here. The 
fa6l is that George Gemiinder lives here at too 
early a period, for his productions are a contin- 
uation of those which the great Italian mas- 
ters brought forth. Taking into consideration 
all the foregoing circumstances it is fair to 
suppose that George Gemunder has had to 
contend with extraordinary difficulties during 
this long time. For ignorance and arrogance 
can do much damage, in this respect, not only 
to the artist, but also to the amateur, as these 
often times place their confidence in those 
musicians who who have no knowledge of vio- 
lins, and who can only mislead them. 



Gemiinder had learned that the knowledge 
of arrogant violinists and amateurs in regard 
to tone did not rest on any correct basis, and 
that their prejudice rested on a tradition aris- 
ing from the decline of the manufacture of 
violins since the death of the celebrated Italian 
makers. All attempts of late years to make 
good violins having failed, an aversion to new 
violins has been gradually spreading, so that 
the most of people at the present time do not 
believe it possible for violins to be both new 
and good. Firstly, because it has been found 
that new violins have not been constructed so 
as to possess the tone of old Italian instru- 
ments ; and secondly, that those made of 


chemically prepared wood did not stand proof 
for a great length of time. Many musicians 
and amateurs have in consequence of this pre- 
vailing prejudice gone to an extreme and dis- 
regarded new violins, no matter what tone they 
might have. To this class of people belonged 
especially the violinist Wieniawski, who had an 
opportunity to play on one of the best violins 
made by Gemiinder, which opportunity he ig- 
nored, because the violin looked new. Instru- 
ments imitated by Gemiinder were placed be- 
fore him as genuine violins, and he admired 
them. Ole Bull was equally surprised when 
an imitation according to Stradivarius was 
handed to him in Columbus, Ohio, and he de- 
clared it to be a genuine original. 

When Vieuxtemps gave concerts in America 
for the first time, and went to see his friend 
Vieweg, Professor of music in Savannah, Ga.,. 
the Professor showed him his Stradivarius 
violin. Vieuxtemps, catching sight of it, said : 
" If he had not been quite sure that his violin 
was at home, he would think it was his own."" 
But when his friend told him it was a Gemiin- 
der violin, he was astonished and observed : 
" The d***l knows how Gemunder can bring 
such a tone in new violins !" 


At about the same time a violinist came 
from Germany and visited Gemiinder to hear 
his violins, because Spohr had praised him so 
much ; but at the same time he doubted 
that new violins could sound like those of the 
old Italian masters. Gemiinder first showed 
him some having the appearance of being new ; 
the violinist played upon them and then ut- 
tered : " They are as I thought ; they have 
not that sweet, melting tone of the Italian in- 
struments." Hereupon he asked Gemiinder if 
he had no Italian violins, in order to show the 
difference. Gemiinder then opened another 
box, and showed him an imitation of Amati 
for a genuine one. No sooner did the instru- 
ment strike his sight than his face brightened 
up and he said : " Everybody can see at once 
that there must be tone in this," and after 
playing upon it he was so pleased that he said 
to Gemiinder : " Yes, there are none of the 
present violin makers who have brought it so 
far !" Hereupon Gemiinder informed him that 
this was also a new violin of his making. 
Scarcely had the visitor heard this, when, 
ashamed of his prejudice, he took his hat and 
went away. 

Similar incidents often occur. In 1859 Ge- 


miinder sent violins to the Exhibition of Bal- 
timore, after which, on one occasion, he was 
invited to a soiree at which his violins were 
played. He also had a genuine Guarnerius 
among his own instruments. An amateur, Mr. 
Gibson, a very good player, was present and 
anxious to hear the Italian violin. During the 
performance of a quartet on the violins made 
by Gemiinder, this amateur, who was possessed 
of the popular prejudice against new instru- 
ments, and who fancied he heard the Italian 
violin, was so exceedingly delighted with it that 
he observed, ' To hear such violins is suffi- 
cient to keep any one from ever touching new 
ones." But when Gemiinder told him they 
were new ones made by him, the amateur 
stared at him as much as to say, " Do you make 
fun of me ? These violins do not look new at 
all !" Gemiinder, however, convinced him of 
the truth of his assertion. This fa6l surprised 
the amateur to such a degree that he was at 
loss what to say, and later, upon learning the 
price of one of the instruments, bought it. 
Sometime after this he valued it at two thou- 
sand dollars in gold. Since then the violin has 
been sent several times to Gemiinder, either 
for a new bridge or other slight repairs, and 


each time new anecdotes have been related of 
it. Of especial interest is that one of Father 
Urso, who was looking for a genuine Guarne- 
rius to give to his daughter Camilla, the cel- 
ebrated violinist. He took Professor Simon 
with him to see the instrument. Both were 
very much surprised at it, not only on account 
of its undoubted genuineness, but also that it 
Was kept so well. Gemiinder then let them 
know that he had perpetrated a joke, and that 
the instrument was made by himself. 

One day Mr. Poznanski, from Charleston, S. 
C., in company with his son, who was already 
an artist on the violin, visited Gemiinder. 
Although still young, his father intended 
to send him to Vieuxtemps for his further 
artistic accomplishment, and with this purpose 
in view he was willing to buy an Italian violin. 
As Gemiinder had none on hand, he showed 
him a new violin, but Poznanski declared that 
he would not buy a new one. Gemiinder then 
showed him an imitation, as if it were a genu- 
ine original. The son played on it, and both 
father and son were highly satisfied with it ; 
they expressed their wish to buy it and asked 
the price, which was given as five hundred 
dollars. When Poznanski was about to pay 


down the money, Gemiinder told him that this 
instrument was also new. Whereupon Poz- 
nanski replied in an excited tone, " Have you 
not heard that we do not want a new violin ?" 
and they left the Atelier ! 

When Vieuxtemps left America, in 1858, 
Poznanski's son went with him to finish his 
studies under his direction. After the lapse of 
eight years he returned an accomplished artist, 
and visited Gemiinder again. He then re- 
marked that he wished to find an Italian violin 
of first class, and asked Gemiinder if he had 
something of that kind in his possession ? 
Here he took the opportunity to remind Ge- 
miinder of the time when he had deceived both 
him and his father, observing at the same time 
very naively : " But now, Gemiinder, you can- 
not deceive me. I obtained thorough knowl- 
edge of imitations at Paris, and also a knowl- 
edge of the genuine Italian violins, for I had 
an opportunity to see many of those made by 
the masters." Gemiinder told him that he had 
two Joseph Guarnerius violins of first class in 
his possession, and laid them before him. Poz- 
nanski expressed his astonishment to find such 
rarities. After a thorough examination Poz- 
nanski declared there was no doubt in regard 


to their genuineness ! He tried both violins, 
and soon evinced his predilection for one of 
them, which he wished to buy, and inquired 
the price. Gemiinder offered each of them at 
one thousand dollars, but at the same time 
told him that he had deceived him for a second 
time, for the instrument which he had picked 
out was new and made by himself, whilst the 
other was genuine. Poznanski, however, told 
Gemiinder that he could not deceive him, that 
it was not possible to produce an instrument 
like that. At this moment two friends of Ge- 
miinder, who were acquainted with his instru- 
ments, entered the shop, and Gemiinder asked 
them in the presence of the young artist, at 
the same time pointing to the instrument 
selected by Poznanski, " who made this vio- 
lin ?" They replied that the maker of it was 
Gemiinder. This appeared to him impossible, 
but, after deliberating on the subject, he said, 
" I must believe it now, and yet I don't believe 
it !" A few days later, becoming fully assured 
that the instrument to which he had taken a 
fancy was not an Italian violin, he bought the 
genuine one, which, however, was an excel- 
lent instrument, thus giving up the one to 


which he had first given preference. This is 
another striking proof of prejudice. 

After a time, however, when Poznanski felt 
more at home at Gemunder's, he found out 
that the instruments made by Gemiinder were 
the only true concert violins, and disposing of 
his Guarnerius, he bought a Maggini made by 
Gemiinder ; he now saw the full extent of his 
prejudice, and was most severe in his denuncia- 
tion of all who thought that there were no 
other violins but the Italian to be played upon. 

If Wienawski had not been seized with such 
a strange fancy, and had had more confidence 
in other artists, he would not have been com- 
pelled to change violins every now and-then, 
for he was constantly buying one Italian violin 
after another and finding none to suit him, 
merely because none would do but an Italian 
instrument. Thus he came to America and 
played on his Stradivarius violin, which had a 
splendid tone in a room, but when played upon 
in a concert hall proved a great deal too 
weak, especially on the G string, when it was 
overstrained. He then bought one of the 
finest Guarnerius violins in Brooklyn, but as it 
did not prove any better than the other, he 
returned it. 


To find Italian violins fit to produce a suffi- 
cient effect in large concert halls is a great 
rarity, since they have been mostly spoiled by 
" fiddle-patchers," or had not from the very 
beginning the proper construction for the giv- 
ing out of tone sufficient to fill such halls. 
On just such powerless violins Vieuxtemps 
performed at his concerts on his last tour 
through America. 

One day Gemiinder made the acquaintance 
of Mario, the greatest Italian connoisseur of 
violins, who was decorated for this knowledge 
when he was at New York. Gemiinder asked 
him to come to his shop, as he had several vio- 
lins which he would like to show him, in order 
to have him judge if they were really genuine 
instruments. Mario came and viewed the vio- 
lins shown to him by Gemiinder minutely, nay, 
even took a magnifying glass to examine the 
varnish, whereupon he declared to Gemiinder 
that they were genuine instruments. But the 
fact is they were violins made by Gemiinder ! 

In the beginning of 1860 Gemiinder was 
often visited by an amateur named Messing, 
who wished to find a good Italian violin, for he 
manifested an aversion toward Gemiinder's. 
productions, owing to his prejudice against new 


violins. At the same time Gemiinder had as 
an apprentice a nephew, who, when he had not 
yet been fully three years with him, was en- 
gaged to make his first violin, according to 
form of Stradivarius. When it was finished 
Gemiinder made him a present of it, and said 
"he would varnish it so as to look old. After- 
ward his apprentice gave it to a friend in New 
York to sell it for htm. This friend published 
in the newspapers that he had a Stradivarius 
o sell. Mr. Messing was the first to make in- 
quiries about it, and bought it, highly rejoiced 
.at having a Stradivarius at last. He then had 
it examined by the violin maker Mercier, in 
New York, who confirmed the claim of orig- 
inality. Mr. Messing then went to Europe, 
.and at Paris he wished to hear what the violin 
maker Gand would say, and the latter also de- 
clared it was an old instrument, adding, howev- 
er, that in order to be quite sure whether it was 
a genuine instrument or not it would require 
more time than he could apply to it just then. 
When he went to Berlin, he showed his instru- 
ment to the violin maker Grimm, that he might 
hear from him his opinion as to its genuineness. 
Grimm refrained from uttering his opinion, yet 
."he offered him a high price for the instrument, 


which the owner considered to be sufficient evi- 
dence that he possessed something extraordin- 
ary, and to warrant him in keeping his violin. 
After the lapse of four years, when Messing had 
returned to New York, he came to see Gemiin- 
der, full of joyous anxiety to show him his violin,, 
saying, "Here, Mr. Gemiinder, I have something 
to show you ; I have found what I have been so 
long looking for!" Mr. Messing then opened his 
box, and Gemiinder, catching a glimpse of the 
violin, exclaimed, "That is my apprentice's first 
production; how did you come by it ?" At these 
words Mr. Messing stood as if thunderstruck, 
and in his bewilderment he tried in every way to- 
convince Gemiinder that he was mistaken, but 
failing in this attempt, his discomfiture was com- 
plete. When he had somewhat recovered from 
his dismay, he felt heartily ashamed, because 
he had disregarded the work of the master only 
to take up with the apprentice's first produc- 
tion, and this, too, under the delusion that that 
work was a genuine Stradivarius violin. Mr. 
Messing is now cured of his prejudice, and is 
no longer looking for a Stradivarius violin. 

At the time when Gemiinder had his violin 
in the Exhibition of Vienna, Baron Leonard, 
from Hungary, who was a great violinist, 


brought him his Italian violin to have it re- 
paired. During their discourse about violins 
the Baron conveyed to Gemiinder the impres- 
sion that he had already seen many Italian 
violins, and he seemed to have a great knowl- 
edge of them. Thereupon Gemiinder showed 
him a violin that seemed to be a genuine Guar- 
nerius, which he had determined to send to 
the exhibition of Vienna. The Baron was 
quite astonished at seeing such a wonder- 
ful and splendid instrument, and did not know 
which to admire more, whether the varnish of 
the violin or its tone ; in short, he looked at it 
with reverence, as if it were a shrine. Gemiin- 
der then showed him a Stradivarius, and when 
the Baron's gaze fell upon this instrument, he 
seemed to be enraptured, and he exclaimed, in a 
tone of question : " Mr. Gemiinder, how do you 
come by such treasures ?" In truth you have a 
treasure of the greatest rarity, for I never saw a 
violin so beautiful and of such tone !" When, 
however, Gemiinder declared to him that these 
were the sisters of the " Kaiser " violin, which 
was in the Vienna Exhibition, and were made 
by him, the Baron conducted himself as if he 
had awakened from a sweet dream, and found 
it difficult to realize his true condition. 


It is not my intention to unfold in this work 
my knowledge of the structure of violins ; for 
the present generation would not thank me for 
doing so. In the treatise itself will be found 
the reasons why I have not set forth that 
knowledge. Since the death of the cele- 
brated old Italian violin makers, many 
works have been put forth, in which we 
find not only in what manner those famous 
masters varnished their violins, but also 
prescriptions even, of theorists who usually 
know nothing about the practice, or mathe- 
matical principles thereof. Abundant theories 
are to be found in all such works, but they are 
good only for those who have little or no 
knowledge of violin making. If the science 
of the celebrated Italian masters could really 
have been found in these works, the experi- 
ments made by European investigators would 
not have been entirely unsuccessful. 

In George Hart's interesting book, " The 


Violin," a comparative illustration may be 
found of the workmanship of all violin 
makers with whom he became acquainted, 
either personally or by history, and by whose 
productions he obtained his practical knowl- 
edge, which comparisons are generally good, 
but not entirely free from error. This 
compilation of experiences is highly inter- 
esting for all those who take an interest 
in violins. The treatises which will be found 
below have reference simply to the art of mak- 
ing violins, to violin players and their critics, 
the information contained in which has for the 
most part never hitherto been made public. 

Through these scientific explanations a bet- 
ter judgment will be awakened, which will 
tend to show how, in consequence of mistakes 
and ignorance in regard to violins and violin 
makers, false ideas arise. 


In 1845 I became personally acquainted with 
Ole Bull, at Vuillaume's, in Paris, where I 
then had my first opportunity of hearing and 
admiring an artist on the violin. I learned 
then to appreciate the beauty of both arts, 
and the sublimity of attainment in either to 
be a violin virtuoso or a perfect volin maker. 
The latter art engaged my whole attention, 
and it was my greatest aim to reach to the 
highest point of perfection therein. 

I also found that Ole Bull took special inter- 
est in the different forms of violins, and I 
remember that as early as 1841, at which time 
I worked at Pesth, my employer made the 
so-called "Ole Bull's bass-bars " in violins, 
the ideas of Ole Bull concerning violins then 
being accepted as authority. Ole Bull subse- 


quently made many experiments regarding 
tone, especially upon new violins, in order to 
reproduce the same character of tone, then 
considered lost, peculiar to the Italian instru- 
ments. Knowing that all experiments made 
since the death of the celebrated Italian mas- 
ters had proven unsuccessful, he undertook to 
construct a violin of very old wood, but was 
soon convinced that he had not obtained bet- 
ter results than others ; he therefore decided 
the project to be an impossibility, and hav- 
ing arrived at this decision, his opinion was 
generally conceded to. Since then, doubt- 
less, he found out that to make a violin was a 
more difficult task, for him, than to play on 
one. As a virtuoso, however, he obtained a 
celebrity which will make his name immortal, 
and as he was an artist in his own peculiar 
way, his name will live forever in the memory 
of men. Nature has endowed many men with 
rare gifts, each one possessing a talent pecu- 
liar to himself; but we know how long it 
requires to perfect one's self in any given art, 
and it therefore cannot be expected that a 
great violin virtuoso should at the same time 
be proficient in the art of violin making, the 
two arts being totally different. It is, how- 


ever, generally believed that the assertion of 
Ole Bull had more weight with many violin 
players and amateurs than the most adequate 
knowledge of a violin maker. I admit that 
Ole Bull had some experience with violins, 
but had he obtained sufficient knowledge he 
would have easily understood that many of 
his ideas were not based upon principles which 
he thought had remained secret to all investi- 
gators on the subject, as the greatest authori- 
ties have acknowledged the tone in George 
Gemiinder's violins to be of the same quality 
as that characteristic of the best Italian instru- 

This proves that violins are judged the best 
when they are mistaken for Italian instruments 
and prejudice only is the actuating motive 
when the declaration follows that the instru- 
ment is a new violin. If, therefore, the know- 
ledge of tone could have proved more reliable, 
prejudice would not, in many cases, have 
appeared so severe, and embodied itself so as 
to degenerate into fanaticism. 

Violins made of healthy wood and accord- 
ing to the rule can never lose their tone. It 
is, however, something different if they are 
carelessly treated. 


When an Italian violin, which lay untouched 
in concealment for fifty years, was shown to 
Wieniawski at the Russian court, and he was 
asked what he thought of it, he said, after 
trying it : " The violin has a bad tone." 
" Well," said the Emperor, " let us put it back 
in its old place. If it had been good I should 
have presented you with it." Wieniawski, 
greatly surprised, replied : "Oh, when I play 
upon it it will regain its tone." Here vanity 
and ignorance are shown at once ; for if that 
artist had had any knowledge of violins, he 
must have known that the violin was not in 
good order, and that it was first necessary to 
have it put in a good condition by a profes- 
sional repairer ; but instead of making such a 
proposal, he thought to make an impression 
by his renown, and that he would improve it 
by playing upon it. 

I mention this because it contains two 
points : firstly, because, especially here in 
America, great stress is laid upon the opinions 
of such artists, but it proves that artists do 
not always have a knowledge sufficient to 
enable them to give a correct judgment of 
violins; secondly, if this violin had been new, 
many would have thought that it was made of 


chemically prepared wood. A violin, however, 
of such defective wood, can never give a good 
tone ; because the life is taken out of it when 
it is made. If such artists would make them- 
selves acquainted with a professional violin 
maker, many of them would get more light on 
this matter, but since they consider them- 
selves to be authorities on the subject, there is 
very little prospect of visible progress. It is, 
therefore, a rarity when an artist is found who 
is able to judge of the quality of tone, wheth- 
er the wood is chemically prepared or not, 
and although this is easily to be distinguished 
by the practiced ear, a peculiar experience is 
required for it nevertheless. Many, however, 
believe that he who plays the violin to per- 
fection, and especially the player of renown, 
must be acknowledged as a judge of tone. 
1 admit that many violin players are judges of 
tone, but not beyond a certain degree, as the 
greater number of them hear their own instru- 
ments only and are taken with them ; but he 
who possesses a feeling of tone, and into whose 
hands violins of all shapes and qualities are 
falling, whereby he learns to distinguish the 
different characters of tone, is to be considered 
a connoisseur of tone ; he must, however, 


possess some knowledge of playing, although 
it is not necessary for him to be a solo player, 
for with how many solo players have I become 
acquainted who have no more judgment of 
tone than children. 

For musicians and solo players it is very 
difficult to find out how far the tone of a violin 
reaches. Many a player, having no experience 
in this regard, plays in concerts on a violin 
which sounds like an echo, but if the instrument 
is called Stradivarius or Guarnerius and $3,000 
has been paid for it, and besides it has a " his- 
tory " attached to it, then, verily, it must 
sound. The critic, however, does not blame 
the violin, but the player, for weakness of 
tone, and in that respect he is right. 

For solo players who still use such echoing 
violins in concerts, it would be of the greatest 
importance to make themselves acquainted 
with the quality of tone which is fit for con- 
certs, for most Italian violins which are used 
in concerts prove either too old or of too thin 
wood ; but. most players are accustomed to the 
fine, tender, echoing tone to a degree that 
the true concert tone appears quite strange to 

Thus, violins of chemically prepared wood 


will never do for concerts, and it is a great 
mistake to believe that such violins have ever 
produced as good a tone as good Italian vio- 
lins do. Ignorance and self interest have 
launched this untruth into the world. For 
violins made of such wood produce short 
vibrations a muffled color of tone similar to 
that of impaired Italian instruments. Vuil- 
laume put all the world in commotion with 
his violins of chemically prepared wood, and 
all the world sang hosannas. But when it 
was found that such instruments kept this 
tone only a short time, there arose a general 
prejudice against new violins and no one 
would play on them. 

In order to remove all such ideas and pre- 
judices I can safely assert that violins of a free, 
high, clear and powerful character of tone, 
with a quality which thrills the heart such 
tone as my instruments produce, and which 
qualities are now seldom found in the best 
Italian violins can never be obtained by any 
artificial preparation of the wood, but only by 
way of science according to acoustic prin- 

Of course it is the wood more than anything 
else which is to be taken into consideration ; 


for without the right sort of wood all science 
will be unavailing, and vice versa. Many vio- 
lin makers can get the best wood, but where 
there is no talent applied in the construction, 
nothing very good can come forth. 

Of all productions of art, the violin is the 
most difficult to judge, and I have nearer 
illustrated the different characters of tone 
which violins produce, and tried to make these 
things more comprehensible, in order that this 
medley of opinions and judgments which have 
been given may be put in a clearer light. 

I was highly astonished at the manner in 
which my " Emperor " violin (" Kaiser " violin) 
was judged, which was sent to the Exhibition 
of Vienna three weeks after it had been 
finished. The violin had attracted not only 
many admirers, but also a great number of 
gazers who have no idea of a violin, and 
who stared at it only on account of its price. 

Thus, the New York Staats Zeitung had 
a correspondent in Vienna, who also stared at 
the violin from the same reason. His igno- 
rance, which he exposed in his correspondence 
to the newspaper which he represented, led 
him to make the following remark, which was 
published on the 2/th of June, 1873, and runs 


as follows : " From Salzburg several violins, 
mostly the former property of Mozart and 
Beethoven, were sent, and the one which 
Beethoven owned was made by Hellmer, at 
Prague, in 1737, as was noted on the label, 
(saleable for 200 Florins,) while for a Gemiin- 
der violin in the American division of the 
Industrial Palace, $10,000 (!) are asked. Of 
course, everybody laughs at the simpleton 
who believes this is the only curiosity of the 
kind, and thinks he can obtain such a fabulous 
price for it. The Commission that for this 
time has made us very ridiculous with our "Go 
ahead," should remove that label as soon as 
possible, that one of the exhibitors may not 
become a public laughing stock." But that 
writer soon found how much this violin was 
admired ; he learned to see that it was the 
only curiosity of the kind, in fa6l, for soon 
afterward I read again in the Sontag's Staats 
Zeitung that " the violin was admired very 

This violin was exhibited by me for the pur- 
pose of proving to the world that I can make 
violins that have the tone which has been 
sought for a long time since the death of the 
celebrated Italian masters, since which all 


attempts have miscarried, and I confirmed this 
fa6l in a circular added to it. 

But what was the result ? It was not 
believed. In the Exhibition of Vienna my 
violin was mistaken for a genuine Cremonese 
violin, not only for its tone, but for its outer 
appearance, which was so striking an imitation 
according to Joseph Guarnerius, that a news- 
paper of Vienna made the observation : 
" George Gemiinder cannot make us Germans 
believe that the violin sent by him is new ; a 
bold Yankee only can put his name in a genu- 
ine instrument, in order to make himself re- 
nowned !" 

Although this was the highest prize which a 
violin maker had ever obtained, it was no ad- 
vantage either for me or the public ; for the 
art of violin making was not furthered by it, 
but rather still more impaired by the corres- 
pondence of the Staats Zeitung and the New 
York Bellcstristic Journal. The latter writes 
as follows : " S. F., Pittsburg. G. is a pupil 
of Vuilliaume ; his violins are much demanded, 
but their prices are so high that purchasers are 
frightened !" 

Thirty years ago I sold violins at from $5 
to $75 ; ten years ago I sold violins at from 


$100 to $300; now I sell them at $100 and 
upwards ; and violin makers here and in 
Europe ask the same prices. Nay, amateurs 
who do best in their ignorance, ask still higher 
prices. Wherein, therefore, do we find that 
which frightens the purchasers ? The effront- 
ery of writers who make such statements as 
the above will bring them no honor. 

Many may still remember that I had deter- 
mined to send six violins of different forms, 
copies of the best old master-violins, to the 
Vienna Exhibition, and intended myself to 
take the matter in hand, but, owing to an 
accident, I was compelled to give up this 
intention. In consequence, I resolved to send 
only one violin. To sele<5l one of them, art- 
ists such as Wollenhaupt, Dr. Damrosch, Carl 
Feinninger and others were consulted, but 
they differed in their opinions, which may be 
taken as a proof that the instruments were 
very much alike in character ; they are also 
witnesses of the fact that I made them. In 
order to call attention to the one selected, I 
noted the price " ten thousand dollars !" No- 
body, however, was charged to dispose of it, 
although three thousand dollars were offered. 

The circumstances connected with the con- 


struclion of this violin gives it more than an 
ordinary interest. Ridicule and praise in the 
highest degree are interwoven with its his- 
tory ; therefore, it has been hitherto the 
most interesting new violin in this century. 
Why I could not be its representative and had 
to leave it to fate can be learned from what I 
have already written about it, and how I have 
judged every thing connected with it. I was, 
however, sure of one fact, namely, that it 
would be acknowledged as a production of art. 
The admission must then be made, and the 
claim is amply justified by facts, that, as new 
violins are frequently mistaken for genuine 
Italian instruments, even when most particu- 
lar attention is given to the varnish, the art of 
violin making must no longer be considered as 
a lost one. 

May the foregoing satisfy all doubters and 
those who have lately, especially in America, 
written about the lost art of varnish and tone, 
and may it cause them in future to refrain from 
investigating into the so called lost arts. He 
who would give a scientific explanation of this 
art and be a critic, must be thoroughly ac- 
quainted with it. 



The manner in which violins are so often 
ruined seems almost beyond comprehension, 
or rather the way they are generally treated 
must necessarily involve their ruin. The cause 
of this can not be entirely ascribed to those 
destroyers of violins who pretend to be repair- 
ers, but it generally rests with the owners of 
violins themselves, because they are usually 
ignorant as to who is master of the art of vio- 
lin making and to whom a master violin may 
be entrusted. They therefore make inquiries 
for such experts, and apply for that purpose, 
generally, to renowned violin players, not real- 
izing that even these are not always endowed 
with discrimination, frequently not more so 
than the one asking advice, and thus the latter 
is led astray. 

To find an adept repairer is as difficult as to 
find a thorough master of the art of making 
violins ; for the repairer must possess the same 
knowledge of the production of tone as the 


best violin maker. The man who cannot make 
excellent violins cannot be an excellent re- 
pairer. To obviate all doubts on the subject, 
I will state that the foundation of the whole 
secret is simply this " Every violin maker will 
make repairs in accordance with his knowledge, 
as he would make violins, and violins as he 
would make repairs !" This principle is so 
scientifically correct as to be conceded even 
by the most severe critics. 

Many a man achieves a reputation by cer- 
tain meritorious accomplishments in which he 
has distinguished himself, and in consequence 
thereof everyone believes him an artist in the 
fullest meaning of the word. For instance, 
Ludwig Bausch, of Leipsig, gained a deserved 
and world wide celebrity as an artist in mak- 
ing bows. I also esteemed him as an excellent 
and very accurate worker. But to my aston- 
ishment I found, as I regret to say, that his 
fine repairs were mostly devoid of value, as 
also were his new violins, so far as the pro- 
duction of tone was concerned. But artists 
and amateurs, far and near, adored his useless 
repairs and new violins, which latter usually 
sold for high prices. 

Thus the public are unable to form a proper 


judgment in regard to the art. It would pain 
many a one, if they could realize the manner 
in which valuable violins are treated by such 
violin makers and repairers. Repairing vio- 
lins, therefore, is as little understood % as violins 
themselves, in consequence of which not only 
the interior of many an Italian instrument is 
ruined, but also the exterior is often deprived 
of its classical appearance by an alcoholic 
varnish, which is smeared over it and which 
impairs its value ; and yet many owners of 
such instruments, who do not know any better, 
rejoice to see their violins with such a glossy 

To rehabilitate a valuable instrument, and 
repair the exterior if necessary, requires a skill 
as artistic as the rehabilitation of a painting by 
a celebrated painter. Such instruments are 
also often peculiarly tortured by unskilled 
hands, and many a valuable top has been 
damaged by the operation of putting, or rather 
forcing, in the sounding post. 

Owners of violins should take particular pre- 
caution never to permit the cutting away of 
wood out ot the bottom or top of a violin, 
without being fully satisfied that the repairer 
is an adept in the art. In Italian violins made 


by the old celebrated masters there is no 
necessity at all for doing this, as they have not 
as a rule any too much wood, and most of 
them are poor enough in this respect ; in case 
those artists made no mistakes others have 
brought them in by their repairs. 





Beautiful and interesting as is this art of 
making and repairing violins, and however 
great has been my enthusiastic devotion to it, 
I should never have engaged in it had I in 
starting possessed my present experience, for 
the ignorance which the public has shown by 
the confusion of opinions in this branch might 
almost make one believe these judgments 
emanated from a mad-house. 

Why is it we hear no such conflicting opin- 
ions about the productions of any other branch 
of industry or art ? Because in no other bus- 
iness do we find so many pretenders. And 
why is it they infest this particular branch of 
business more than any other ? Simply be- 
cause the art of violin making is not founded 
on a correct system, and this may account for 
the medley of ideas which have been spread 
broadcast throughout the musical countries, 


except France, where a regular system is 

Yet in spite of the lack of correct system of 
making violins, I have become acquainted with 
a few German musicians who have acquired an 
excellent schooling in the art. In this respect 
I cannot refrain from mentioning my admira- 
tion for a thoroughly skilled musician, Mr. 
Herman Eckhardt, of Columbus, Ohio, a man 
of rare genius in the knowledge of music, who 
was able to define clearly and accurately the 
different periods of the progress I made in 
violin making. 

Such a man I must respect the more, because 
he is endowed with sound judgment, which 
other musicians, often of very high standing, 
could only acquire by instruction, a method 
which to some of them would seem to be im- 
possible, as they are devoid of judgment, hav- 
ing their ability warped by false ideas about 
violins, and rendering them incapable of cor- 
rectly understanding and appreciating the 
latest and best productions ; this may ac- 
count for their fanatical admiration of Italian 
violins, even if they possess only imitation, 
but, as " ignorance is bliss," they are happy. 

On the other hand, there are amateurs who 


take such a practical view of the matter that 
they are just opposite in their beliefs to this 
class of fanatics. They do not see why a new 
production, which answers the purpose as well 
and which in more ways than one is preferable 
to an old production of the same kind, should 
be regarded as of less value. They do not 
understand why a desirable article should com- 
mand an enormous price when another article 
accomplishing the same effect can be bought 
much cheaper. And in this they show a com- 
mon sense which might well be emulated by 
many others. While it is true that an enthu- 
siast ought never to be blamed for his enthu- 
siasm, if it has a reasonable base, it is no less 
true that lacking in this respect he is nothing 
more or less than a fanatic. This class of peo- 
ple is by no means exclusively confined to 
amateurs, but even includes in its ranks many 
true artists in music. 



There is no doubt that a certain class of 
violin players pay very little attention to the 
care of their instruments, as they use them 
daily, and few have time to bestow the neces- 
sary attention upon them. If a violin is out 
of order, a musician or amateur who knows 
nothing about it continues to play upon it. 
At length he perceives that the tone is not 
the same as it was before. Many, therefore, 
often lay the blame on the repairer, or on the 
violin maker, if it is a new instrument. It is 
therefore desirable that players should always 
pay attention to their instruments and exam- 
ine them whenever they intend to use them, 
to see whether everything is in order ; that 
the neck has not sunk a little to the front, 
causing the finger board to lie deeper on the 
top and the strings to lie somewhat too high. 
Such deviations will occur, particularly when 
the top is very much vaulted, as well as by 
change of weather or climate. 

As soon as the weather becomes moist it is 


advisable to keep a violin in a box ; when 
the weather is fine it should be taken out of 
the box for a time every day ; and even if it is 
a very old violin it is not good to keep it 
always locked up. A violin should never lie 
on a floor, whether in a box or not, but should 
always be kept on an elevated place and in a 
moderately warm temperature. 

Before using the violin it is advisable to rub 
it with a soft cloth or chamois, so that neither 
dust nor perspiration may remain on it ; it 
should also be cleaned each time after being 
played upon. The sounding post should also 
be examined, to be sure that it still stands per- 
pendicular. The bridge, too, must be looked 
at, and if it stands obliquely it must be brought 
into its normal position again before taking 
the bow. It usually inclines somewhat forward 
on the E string after tuning it. If this is the 
case, pinch the E string between the thumb 
and index finger, while the corresponding part 
of the bridge is moved backward by the points 
of the fingers. 

On good and excellent violins particular at- 
tention must be given to the bridge, especially 
when it fits the instrument, for it is not always 
easy to replace it with one equally good. A 


bridge which is qualified to affect: the violin 
and contribute to the charm of tone of the 
instrument is more 'valuable than one would 
often think. Many consider a bridge of as 
little consequence as a string, when it breaks 
on the violin, and think they can restore the 
loss by a bridge which costs three cents ; for 
the correct model of a bridge is considered 
only as an ornament by such people. Of 
course they do not know that this is one of the 
most important parts of good violins, and that 
there are but few violin makers who are able 
to make a bridge as it should be. But it is the 
same with the bridge as with the violin. 

It is not only the correct construction of the 
violin and bridge which produces a good tone, 
but the right sort of wood must be found for 
the purpose. Thus the bad form of a bridge 
made of fine wood is just the same as a com- 
mon fiddle made of fine materials. It there- 
fore follows that we should take as much care 
of a master bridge as of the violin itself. 

It some times occurs that the sounding post 
of the violin becomes shorter by itself; in this 
case it may be advisable to relax the strings 
entirely in order to see whether the sounding 
post does not fall. If this is the case, a new one 


must be made of old wood by a skilled work- 
man. The cause of this is that the wood con- 
tracts more or less, especially in dry weather ; 
this may also be caused by a change of air, 
which sometimes even produces a distortion of 
the swell of the top. 

When such care is habitually taken, a violin 
will always be in good order. Too low a 
sounding post causes a lower position of the 
top on that side, which, when not remedied, 
will remain and will produce a defe6l in the 
swell and tone. This is also the case when 
the sounding post is too high, and many vio- 
lins are seen where the swell is higher or lower 
than it ought to be on the side where the 
sounding post stands. This is also the case 
with the bass-bar or so-called "soul" of a 
violin, which is just as mysterious a part of 
the violin as any one can imagine ; and its 
quality shows the skill or ignorance of its 





From the foregoing treatises it will be seen 
with what energy I devoted myself to the art 
of making violins, and I can declare to the 
world with a good conscience that I have 
reached the standpoint in this art which has 
been striven for in vain during a century. 

I have studied all the characteristics in the 
construction of the Italian master violins, 
and have had extensive practice in imitating 
violins, as masters have made them, and have 
obtained an understanding which enables me 
to unite all good qualities of tone in the con- 

As I am able to judge from experience, no- 
body can confute me. All those who doubt 
it or will dispute it can neither confute me 
scientifically, nor prove what they say. I have 
had a great many opportunities to hear and 
repair the best Italian violins myself, including 
Paganini's wondrous violin at Vuilliaumc's, in 


Paris, and I can affirm that my "Kaiser" violin 
can be considered as wondrous a violin in re- 
gard to tone and character as nay, it is even 
to be preferred to that of Paganini's in many 
respects ! 

I also make a peculiar kind of Maggini vio- 
lin. For this purpose I have selected an older 
form than that which is generally known. I 
construct these violins in a manner to include 
all good qualities of tone, and they are, there- 
fore, far preferable, because they surpass those 
of Stradivarius in greatness of tone. Such 
distinctions prove that I have made great pro- 
gress in this art. 

Most Italian violins are now of interest only 
to admirers of art, and may be recommended 
to antiquarians, for there are only a very few 
still existing which can be used for concerts, 
and although if even their voice disappears 
more and more out of their body, they will 
always be valued, kept as relics and admired 
by friends of art. But it is only fancy which 
makes most of them adore what they do not 
understand, and they trample down the blos- 
som of the new productions which the world 
brings forth. 

Therefore, it will be of some interest to 


many to hear more minute particulars about 
the method of construction of violins of the 
old Italian masters, as many persons are still 
in darkness as to which violins the best tone 
is to be ascribed. This want of knowledge 
comes simply from the fact that a combination 
of uninjured instruments of the best masters 
is a task very difficult to be effected, and these 
instruments would by all means have to be put 
in proper condition by an expert. 

This has, perhaps, never been done yet, and 
a general comparison could only be made as 
the opportunity presented itself. 

As I acquired knowledge of the system, the 
forms and swells of violins of the great mas- 
ters, I also became so thoroughly familiar with 
the characteristics of tone that I have found 
out what the present needs require. 

I will now consider in detail the different 
characteristics of tone of the productions of 
the great masters, and state in what manner 
this difference was obtained. 

Jacob Stainer, at Absam, in Tyrol, was a 
pupil of Nicholas Amati, at Cremona. Stainer 
and Amati made violins which were mostly 
demanded by amateurs on account of their 
round, sweet, silver tone, This character of 


tone they produced by a small, round and 
some what oblong swell, as well as by a neat 
and somewhat smaller size than that of Stradi- 
varius, who endeavored to gain a greater so- 
nority of tone. Stradivarius, therefore, made 
the swell less high than Stainer or Amati, but 
of a broader circumference, drawn oblong, by 
which he obtained a sublime tone in an aristo- 
cratic and majestic form. 

Joseph Guarnerius del Jesu. As long as he 
made violins according to the school of his 
great master, Stradivarius, his productions 
were of a similar nature. Later, he made 
somewhat smaller models, sometimes with a 
circumferential swell, by which he gained a 
somewhat smaller tone, but with a striking, 
quick touch of a peculiar brilliancy. It is 
strange that he gave a different form to each 
of his violins, the/", the swells and the scrolls 
varying in almost every instrument. It is told 
that he was imprisoned for a long time, and, 
under great deprivations, he made violins 
secretly. In all his productions his great genius 
is recognized. 

Duffu Prugar, at Bonninien, lived in the six- 
teenth century. His violins have a large and 
wide form, with interesting ornaments of 


carving work and inlay ; their swells are beau- 
tiful, and as high as those of Stradivarius, and 
they produce a great and full tone. But as 
there are only few still existing, many violins 
are imitated in France according to this mod- 
el, and they are spread far and wide. 

Maggini's violins are mostly of a large size 
and of a higher swell and fuller toward the 
extreme parts than all the other violins of the 
Italian masters, therein producing a great 
fulness of tone ; on the G and D strings their 
color of tone is particularly deep. 

Gaspard da Salo made very interesting vio- 
lins of small and large size ; the former have a 
peculiar character of tone, not very strong but 
of a very clear color. These violins have a 
beautiful, high and round swell, similar to 
those of Jacobus Stainer, but those of a 
greater size are flatter, producing more power 
of tone, and are therefore better adapted for 
.solo performances. 

These celebrated masters left us a great 
choice of different forms and swells, as well as 
their method of workmanship in regard to the 
top and bottom of their violins, where the 
proof is to be seen that they always made in- 
vestigations in order to gain a greater pcrfec- 


tion. Stradivarius and Joseph Guarnerius have 
especially obtained a beautiful quality of tone 
in their violins, yet in order to gain an easy 
touch of tone, they worked the top pretty 
tender, and in many instances they made the 
middle part of the top most thin, probably 
to further the easiness of sound still more.. 
Such violins do not answer for concerts. 

It seems that at that time less attention was 
paid to such a power of tone as is required 
now, because only few of them have been found 
with an acceptable thickness of wood in the 
top and bottom. This is, therefore, the rea- 
son that so many Italian violins produce too- 
weak a tone in concerts. 

Although Maggini left the top and bottom 
thicker in the middle part, still, most of his 
violins have not, on account of construction 
and deep color of tone, been received with 
favor like those of Stradivarius and Joseph 
Guarnerius. As only a few such Guarnerius 
and Stradivarius violins were found which by 
reason of their thickness of wood answered 
the purpose of solo violins, every one believed 
all their productions of a like character. 

Therefore, so many solo players often expose 


their ignorance by playing on such violins in 

Stradivarius instructed other pupils besides 
Joseph Guarnerius, who made excellent violins, 
and many of these violins still exist. As the 
most of them were made with the full thick- 
ness of wood, they produce a splendid tone, 
often better than some of those made by their 
great master. This teaches us that he who 
wishes to possess an Italian violin on account 
of its tone cannot depend upon finding it by 
the name alone, but he has to pay all his at- 
tention to the discovery of those in which the 
necessary thickness of wood is found. 

A solo player, therefore, should never play 
a violin on account of its name alone, for if the 
violin produces a weak tone, the blame will be 
laid on him, and so much the more because it 
is generally supposed that such instruments 
must be master violins. 



First of all I will take America into consid- 
eration, where the art of making violins is too 
little understood to be judged. Commis- 
sioners of exhibitions like those, for instance, 
of the late Centennial, have no idea of violins, 
and, therefore, are unable to appoint judges 
competent to award the premiums. It would 
be too much to ask that they should them- 
selves be such connoisseurs, for the violin is 
still considered as a fiddle in this country, and 
it may still take a long time before the people 
here reach the standard of knowledge and ap- 
preciation which Europe occupies. Therefore, 
only very few real violin makers are found 
here, for most of them are only amateurs do- 
ing business in this branch. In the Centen- 
nial exhibition in Philadelphia, in the Uni- 
ted States Department, were found mostly 
such amateur violins. I have heard that all 
those who called themselves violin makers 
received a premium. The judges were either 


unequal to the requirements of their office or 
they desired to offend nobody. If the latter 
be the case they certainly acted generously if 
not justly. But exhibitions of art were estab- 
lished for the purpose of finding out in which 
way the different articles of industry and art 
compare with each other. Proper examina- 
tions can be made only by professional men, 
otherwise only that fiddle that " cries " the 
most will attract the greatest attention. 

Justice will never prevail in such exhibitions, 
owing either to want of knowledge in order to 
be able to judge who has deserved a premium, 
or to favoritism, for merit can hope least, espe- 
cially in Europe. Artists there can only re- 
ceive acknowledgment if they have the means 
to spend. The Centennial exhibition, how- 
ever, was not guilty of such a wrong ; here it 
was the desire to be as just as possible to all, 
although not every one could be satisfied. To 
act in the capacity of an awarder is always a 
thankless task ; whether the judge has or has 
not the necessary knowledge, discontent is 
sure to follow, because the conceited man who 
has been unrewarded does not see the differ- 
ence between his production and the better 
one of his co-exhibitor, but an injustice is done 


to an artist, if through favoritism a premium 
is awarded to an inferior production. 

Exhibitions, however estimable they may 
be, are still very imperfect in regard to their 
organization ; in Europe they have been for 
years entirely corrupt, and are now called into 
existence mostly J}y speculators. The true 
principle has been lost sight of and taken a 
corrupt form. It is scarcely to be expected 
that the time will come when the many defects 
which have crept in will be removed again, 
for all these failings which have manifested 
themselves throw a shade over such exhibi- 
tions, and the time is not far distant when they 
will be entirely disregarded, if not reorganized 
on a different basis. But I believe that they 
will never attain great perfection, even if taken 
in hand by the Government, for so long as a 
system of awards is connected therewith, mis- 
takes and discontent cannot be avoided. 
Managers of exhibitions are not always com- 
petent to appoint the proper professional men 
and experts as judges ; and as those appoint- 
ed lack the necessary qualifications, dissat- 
isfaction ensues. But suppose the awards were 
made with proper knowledge and strictest im- 
partiality, what then ? What have the re- 


maining competitors gained who are less gifted 
by nature, and therefore could not receive any 
award ? Nothing but mortification and an im- 
paired business. Is this fair on the part of 
human society ? Not every one can be an 
artist. The offering of premiums has for its 
object the promotion of industry ; but the ma- 
jority of exhibitors can never achieve distinc- 
tion by reason of lack of talent, and must con- 
sequently be considered as excluded from their 
line of business. Are we not bound to con- 
sider them as our fellow brethren and to care 
for them as well as for those receiving premi- 
ums ? But the present generation does not 
seem to have any thoughts about this, for 
there are but very few men who are still ani- 
mated with noble impulses ; while the major- 
ity are striving to ruin their fellow men by 

In my opinion such exhibitions cannot con- 
tinue any longer, because justice can never 
be expected, and the chase for the highest 
premium in order to outdo others, has not 
only become ridiculous, but also immoral. 

If I were the richest man, it should never 
come into my mind to strive for a premium 
which I must purchase through so-called 


leeches. There are, however, connoisseurs who 
know how to distinguish that which is better 
from that which is less good. 

As long as such exhibitions are based on 
such rotten principles, I find no longer any 
interest as an exhibitor in striving for a premi- 
um, and as I gained the highest moral premi- 
um in the exhibition at Vienna in 1873, on 
this account I did not compete for any premi- 
um as an exhibitor in the Centennial exhibi- 
tion at Philadelphia ! 



Whoever takes an interest in violin mak- 
ing will -undoubtedly be pleased to hear more 
particulars in regard to dilettanti violin mak- 
ers and their patrons. There are some dil- 
ettanti violin makers in America who consid- 
er violin making their business, and there 
are others who do not make it their chief 
business. They have their own particular 
patrons, who in the knowledge of violins are 
on the same level with themselves ; but it can- 
not be denied that in the productions of some 
of these violin makers there is talent discern- 
able ; if these persons could have had proper 
instruction, more good violin makers would be 
found than are now in existence. But as long 
as dilettanti violin makers remain as such, only 
dilettanti violins will be produced ; for without 
proper instruction it is impossible to obtain 
either a correct knowledge of the exterior 
formation or a correct knowledge of the pro- 
duction of tone. 

It is true, that every piece of wood over 


which strings have been stretched will sound, 
and every such instrument will have its admir- 
ers. There are, however, dilettanti violin 
makers whose self-conceit and boldness is sim- 
ply astonishing. The professional will under- 
stand this, for if a self-conceited man could see 
clearly and look into the matter, he would be 
astonished at his workmanship, as I was once 

As dilettanti usually lack that practice which 
is peculiar to the regular violin makers, they 
very often experiment in all kinds of machines 
by which they expect to lighten manual labor ; 
their object, however, is mostly reached in a 
very roundabout manner, although they believe 
to have made an improvement, and this im- 
provement they announce to the public as a 
great success. As most of their patrons have 
no knowledge of the matter, such a dilettante 
appears to them as an extraordinary genius. 
This supposition would perhaps not be dispu- 
ted if it did not take considerably more time 
to execute with their machines a certain 
amount of work than the practical workman 
requires simply by the dexterity of his hand. 

A dilettante violin maker can never be a 
thorough workman, and is entitled to be con- 


sidered only as a " jack-of-all-trades ;" he has 
a great many kinds of tools which the regular 
violin maker never uses. 

Many dilettanti are presumptuous enough to 
believe themselves further advanced in theo- 
retical knowledge concerning tone than the 
most experienced violin maker of the present 
day. Some of them ask, in consequence, a 
great deal higher price for a violin of their own 
make than does any regular violin maker for his. 
But it seems to me that such persons are often 
only the tools of Ole Bull, a once celebrated 
violinist with extravagant ideas, who misled 
them. They, however, believe to have learned 
from him the true secret of the art of violin 
making. He also tried to persuade them into 
the belief that in order to have violins sound 
well and to be serviceable for concerts, they 
-shjCMoW-be^made of chemically prepared wood. 
If such pretended wise man would have some 
knowledge of wood, he ought to be able to 
distinguish wood which is chemically prepared 
and that which is not ! About this point I have 
already sufficiently explained my opinion. 

To give the wood the old natural color which 
is peculiar to the Italian violins, in a great 
measure depends on the material used, for 


not every wood intended for violin making has 
the necessary qualifications. Violins made 
from such selected wood are therefore espe- 
cially valuable. 

It cannot now appear strange that the gen- 
eral public has so little knowledge in the judg- 
ing of violins, when a world renowned violinist 
like Ole Bull shows such ignorance. Here in 
America the latter preferred the company of 
dilettanti violin makers, for the reason that 
they were generally willing to listen to his 
ideas, and some of them have studied now so 
much that they cannot see any clearer nor 
hear any better. 

Dilettanti violin makers form a peculiar class 
of violin makers in America ; and they seem 
to be born for the sphere of such knowledge 
as is here shining forth Their patrons write 
articles for them in which they try to instruct 
the public by their ignorance, as we find, for 
instance, in the Philadelphia Times, of August 
3Oth, 1879: " Gemiinder refuses to state the 
source of supply for his wood, and it is a well- 
known fact that he and others use at times 
chemical preparations for the purpose of 
changing the character and the appearance of 
their wood." 


The writer of this notice made a state- 
ment without any foundation. Had he and 
his train a proper knowledge of the matter, 
they would be able to perceive that the mate- 
rial of my violins is not chemically prepared 
and the character of the wood has not under- 
gone any change whatever. It is presumptu- 
ous in ignorant persons to make such state- 
ments against a man of long experience, for 
the purpose of bringing his productions into 
discredit ; productions which are proofs in 
themselves that not a single violin can come 
into the condition of those manufactured of 
chemically prepared wood, as those of Vuil- 
liaume in Paris. But such individuals manifest 
not only a prejudice against a better under- 
standing, but also are impertinent, from which 
stupidity and meanness emanate ; and thus 
they unmask themselves as false experts. 

The cause for this assertion will have to be 
found, and for the disbeliever there is no other 
ground in the advantages I have gained by my 
studies, which to them seem impossible ; and 
as the Italian violins are generally acknowl- 
edged the only good instruments, they try 
almost anything to oppose what has proven 


itself so gloriously, rather than acknowledge 
it as a fa6l. 

Truth, however, can never be overruled, and 
the time will come which will impose silence 
on such individuals ! Since mankind inhabits 
the earth their characters are as different as we 
find different plants. Many a flower is not fra- 
grant, and how many stately and celebrated 
men are heartless ! Those, therefore, who are 
void of generosity are able to do evil. Those 
classes who are as it were idle weeds, for the 
kinds are both useful and hurtful to men ; all 
that nature produces has a meaning. If we 
could fathom all the secrets of nature we 
would also be able to understand the meaning 
of them, and idle weeds could be less hurtful. 
But in nature there lies a wisdom which re- 
mains a secret to mortal man. 



It is an incontestable fact that the success of 
the endeavors of men to gain a livelihood 
depends upon luck, although many are of dif- 
ferent opinion, especially those who are always 
favored by good luck, as they ascribe their 
success to their enterprise and skill. They do 
not consider that good luck only has offered 
them a chance. Many become wealthy with- 
out being gifted with peculiar knowledge, 
while many others, in spite of all their knowl- 
edge and genius, endeavour in vain and do not 
see their efforts rewarded. It is, therefore, a 
matter of facl:, that neither art nor science 
produce wealth, unless they are favored by 
good luck, and the cases are innumerable 
which prove this. From the many experi- 
ences in my life, especially in my profession, 
I will only mention the following : Vuilliaume, 
of Paris, was favored by nature in a very high 
degree in every thing ; he was not only the 
greatest artist in his profession in Europe dur- 
ing the present century, but also an excellent 


business man, and good luck smiled on him in 
all his enterprises. Lupot, his partner, laid 
the foundation of Vuilliaume's independence 
by effecting a marriage between him and a 
very rich lady of nobility. Thus he became 
not only a celebrated man, but also the richest 
violin maker of our time. Although some of 
his violins of prepared wood incurred discredit, 
nevertheless there were admirers who bought 
his violins, even in America, where the pre- 
judice against new violins is so prevalent, on 
account of the supposition that the wood of 
them was chemically prepared, a practice of 
which they so stupidly and unjustly accused 
me, and thereby caused a great deal of harm 
to my business. On the other hand, Vuil- 
liaume, who really prepared his wood in a 
chemical manner, was lucky and prosperous. 
What is the reason of this and where is it to 
be found, and why does good luck generally 
lie in the opposite extreme ? The solution of 
this secret will probably remain undisclosed to 
mortals. Upon whomsoever fortune smiles, 
and whom she allows to blow the golden horn, 
he penetrates the world, his name becomes 
great, and he produces upon mankind that 
effe6l which persuades them into the belief that. 


the best can be found only in him. If Vuil- 
liaume had been a poor man he would have 
certainly remained poor, especially in America, 
where the art of violin making is still less un- 
derstood than in Europe, and unjust reports 
will be more readily listened to than anywhere 

In Europe there was a general supposition 
that a pretty good demand for old Italian vio- 
lins existed in America, in consequence of 
which dealers in old and new violins found 
their way hither. In disposing of these instru- 
ments they were not very scrupulous in regard 
to the information, and sometimes gave them 
names according their own fancy. A great 
many so-called Italian violins and violoncellos 
came in this way to America, and the owners 
are happy in the imaginary possession of an 
Italian instrument. Other persons again en- 
tertain the idea that they are surer of a genu- 
ine article if it comes from Europe, as there is 
their home ; but if it is believed that this is 
always the surer way, it is a mistake. It re- 
quires an extraordinary study to recognize the 
maker of an instrument, and understand the 
dead language of the violin. Thus it must not 
.be believed that the instruments claimed to be 


Italian are always genuine ; the seller himself 
may sometimes be mistaken. Many owners of 
such "baptized" violins do not always like to 
be informed of the real origin of the instru- 
ment by a person of thorough knowledge. 

Sometimes I feel constrained to give an 
opinion by virtue of my knowledge, but it 
it must not be expected of me to admire a 
thing that is not genuine, as those owners do 
in their ignorance. 

If, howevever, a genuine and valuable Ital- 
ian violin has lost any part, and if a violin 
maker possesses the art to restore the missing 
part, either in imitating the varnish or in 
adapting the lost part to the character of the 
violin, so that the instrument reappears in its 
originality so completely that the connoisseur 
is deceived, the value of the violin is in that 
case not impaired. This also occurs in regard 
to very valuable old pictures, and the artist 
who is found to be able to execute such work 
is well paid. 

Such artists are, perhaps, more to be es- 
teemed than the maker of the original, as they 
are rare, especially those who are able to restore 
the originality of valuable old violins. The 
instruments lose their value in case the repairs 


cannot be carried out properly, owing to a 
want of genius upon the part of the repairer. 

I have often shown this art in exceptional 
repairs ; but what can be gained by it ? The 
greater number of those who own violins do 
not know how to appreciate such skilful work, 
and, in their ignorance, they attempt to do 
harm in the bargain, when they hear that they 
must for such repairs, perhaps, pay somewhat 
more than usual an additional proof of how 
great the darkness still is in judging this art. 
The time when a better understanding in this 
regard will come to daylight is still far off! 
And why ? Because all other arts and branch- 
es of industry are based upon solid ground, as 
the State governments protect them, and, 
therefore, they can come to a proper degree of 
perfection. The art of making violins does not 
enjoy this privilege (except in France) and it 
hovers mostly in the fog since the death of the 
celebrated Italian masters. 

Therefore, it can yet be called only a fancy 
art. The opportunity which has been given to 
mankind in this century to make this science 
general has not been regarded, because the 
confidence and belief in it has been wanting, 
and it will disappear like a drowning person, 


who several times comes up out of the water, 
but who, at last, is overwhelmed. Instead of 
endeavoring to save this art in its details, it is 
ignored by self-interest. But such an aversion 
to the best modern productions is sometimes 
punished very severely, as want of knowledge 
often brings common productions into the 
possession of individuals. 

Since the death of Tariso, the great collec- 
tion of violins, etc., which he gathered from 
all the regions of Europe, has been scattered 
again over all countries. Vuilliaume, who 
bought many of them, afterward resold some 
to violin makers and dealers ; those instru- 
ments which were put in order by them are 
easily recognized. 

This collection consisted mostly of all char- 
acters of Italian instruments, from the most 
commonplace to the celebrated Stradivarius. 
In many an admirer an interest may have been 
awakened thereby to possess one of these 
instruments. But it must not be expefted 
that all of those violins still possess their 
original parts. Had not such amateurs as 
Tariso and they are not rare in Europe 
bought those instruments of that time and 
kept them safely, which contributed to their 



longer preservation, they would, especially if 
they had been always used, be in a much worse 

George Hart, of London, is also such a 
gatherer of and dealer in instruments. John 
Hart, the father of George Hart, whose per- 
sonal acquaintance I made at Vuilliaume's, 
in Paris when I was engaged to make for him 
a set of Stradivarius heads, from that of violin 
up to that of contra-basso, which should serve 
as models undertook to gather such old Ital- 
ian violins for the purpose of selling them 
again to other persons. From that firm there 
came, in fact, some specimens of the celebrated 
Italian masters to America, and they are inter- 
esting and very well preserved. I have seen 
and admired them ; they are in possession of 
an amateur at Hartford, Conn. Here they are 
preserved again for the coming generation. 

Violin players look with envy upon such 
violins in the hands of amateurs, but it is for- 
tunate that most of them have come into such 
hands, for violins of this kind are very delicate, 
and although those which are well kept pro- 
duce a beautiful tone, most of them have not 
that power of tone which is necessary for con- 


The solo player, however, believes he must 
produce the strong tone of a violin by force, 
which breaks the tone, and is not heard dis- 
tinctly. In this manner such violins are tor- 
tured and ruined. When such well kept vio- 
lins continue to be well preserved, they may 
be the same after a hundred years. Such relics 
will then, no doubt bring still higher prices 
from those who wish to possess a violin of that 

But it is strange that some amateurs put a 
particular value upon a violin which has been 
in the possession of a rich nobleman, as if it is 
more likely to be genuine in that case ? What 
a foolish idea ! Such whims are not enter- 
tained by connoisseurs. There are enough 
aristocrats who possess only a fiddle, especially 
in America, and who know nothing about the 
value of a violin ; it is rarely that they have at 
home a violin which is worth over five or ten 
dollars. When many of them hear that thou- 
sands of dollars are paid for violins, they think 
that persons who pay these prices must be 
crazy. The reason of this is that most of them 
know no difference between a ten dollar fiddle 
and a violin which costs as many hundreds of 
dollars ! 


Amateurs who pay thousands of dollars for 
a violin are here in America just as isolated as 
that enthusiast who paid six hundred dollars 
for the first ticket of the first concert given by 
Jenny Lind in New York, and the other who 
paid ten dollars for his admittance in order to 
be able to see the six hundred dollar man. 

Thus I believe to have unrolled a panorama 
which will assist in the dissemination of knowl- 
edge and truthful views, which have only been 
obtained by a long experience. 



It has often occurred to me that violin play- 
ers of all kinds find fault when the strings are 
not arranged in the manner to which they are 
accustomed, and almost every one believes his 
method to be correct. This subject shall be 
discussed here, so that a clearer insight may 
be obtained and the correcl; method ascer- 

There are violin players who have a greatly 
arched bridge, and others a very flat one, on 
their instruments. The latter, therefore, more 
than the former, have the advantage of being 
able to play on all violins, because they are 
accustomed to a bridge which is flatter. These 
different methods mostly arise from the differ- 
ent arrangements of the violins upon which 
pupils learn to play. 

Ole Bull was an exception to this rule ; with 
him it was not chance ; of all violin players he 
used the flattest bridge on his violin ; but it 
was his principle. His music pieces required 


it, and in his method he became a master. 

I. B. Poznanski played at one time on a vio- 
lin with almost as flat a bridge as that on Ole 
Bull's instrument, and I believe it will not have 
been forgotten that he produced, as if by 
charm, a great tone from his instrument. This 
proves that a great tone can be gained on a 
flat bridge. Therefore it depends only on the 
skill with which the bow is handled. Many 
violin players, however, are of opinion that 
they must press the bow on the strings very- 
much, in order to bring forth a strong tone on 
the violin ; but the pressure of the bow is lim- 
ited ; for when it is too strong, the ear be- 
comes disgusted with the tone, nay, a scraping 
and jarring tone is produced by too strong a 
pressure, because the G string touches the fin- 
ger-board in this case, in consequence of which 
many violin players wish to have the finger- 
board very hollow. But it must not be be- 
lieved that in such a manner the right tone is 
produced ; on the contrary, the full tone, which 
lies ready in the violin, is very easy to be 
gained by the knowledge and skill of handling 
the bow. 

The rule is, that the tone must be drawn 
forth by the bow, and it must not be forced 


forth by pressure. The bow must not be led 
oblique, but straight over the strings, so that 
the hair lies flat on them ; it also depends on 
the flexibility of the arm, that the bow may 
not touch the strings stiffly, but in an elastic 
manner. Those who attract attention to their 
elbows cannot expe6l that the bow and the 
violin alone will do their service. 

The most perfect condition of a violin re- 
quires the instrument to be so arranged that it 
can be played easily ; therefore, I determine 
that the height of the strings must be three- 
sixteenths of an inch at the end of the finger- 
board, and that the arch of the bridge must 
have the same measure, three-sixteenths of an 
inch, between its two extremes, for bridges 
more arched than this cause difficulties to the 
player, because the movement of the bow is 
too much abstracted when passing from the 
E string to the G string. In such a manner, 
David in Leipsic had the violins arranged for 
his pupils. 

On such arched bridges the two middle 
strings lie too high from the top towards the 
G string and E string, and it is an acoustical 
mistake, because it produces an inequality of 
the character of tone. 


Such knowledge should be taught to the pu- 
pils in conservatories of music ; but it is gen- 
erally believed that when a violin player has 
been made a professor he is able to satisfy the 
requirements of his position in this regard. 

For the benefit of the learner, however, I will 
enter more nearly upon the knowledge which 
is required, especially in a conservatory, and 
to the imparting of which the teacher should 
attend. First I will mention as an example 
the conservatory at Leipsic when it was under 
the management of Director David. Most of 
his scholars were then compelled to play on 
new violins made by Bausch, which for their 
stiff and tough tone are for the greater part 
unfit for those who would become artists. This 
quality of tone, together with the facl; that 
students were forced into a certain position 
and fatigued, caused them to become nervous ; 
but many parents who had no knowledge ol it, 
sent their sons to that institute, even from 
America, and they had no idea that many of 
them brought back a nervous disease and were 
thus ruined. I heard this of no other conser- 
vatory in Europe. Thus it would appear that 
David pursued his own interest rather than 
that he cared for the good of his pupils. 


Here in America we have violin teachers 
whose methods are preferable by far to such. 

The following is a method according to 
which students should be instructed: The stu- 
dent must not be forced into a position of 
holding the violin so as to cause the ruin of 
health, but on the contrary, by means of a free 
position and natural holding of the violin the 
chest will be enlarged. This does not only 
benefit the health, but also facilitates the learn- 
ing and progress. 

It is of the greatest importance that stu- 
dents learn on violins which have good tone, 
for instruments which have a bad quality of 
tone usually discourage the beginner, so that 
he becomes nervous and soon considers play- 
ing an unpleasant work, and gives it up without 
knowing the reason why. Teachers, therefore, 
should have the necessary knowledge of the 
qualities which a violin must possess. A 
knowledge indispensable for them and a great 
benefit for the learner. For only a good tone 
has a charming influence upon the mind, and 
owing to this many beginners advance early 
to a high degree of perfection ; therefore it 
must also be in the interest of the students to 
get familiar with the good tone of a violin, 


that their ear may not be accustomed to a 
sickly tone. Alas ! This point is mostly dis- 
regarded by their parents, who have little or 
no knowledge of a violin, and it provokes some 
indignation in scientifically instructed teachers 
to teach their pupils on miserable fiddles. 

If a teacher knows how a violin should be 
arranged, it is above all his duty to examine 
the instrument, and ascertain whether it can 
be used for the instruction of a learner ; for as 
the violin is first arranged for him so he will 
ever be accustomed to have it afterward. For 
instance, on the violin of the solo player Ed. 
Mollenhauer, the strings lie on the finger- 
board lower than on any other that I ever saw. 
No doubt he has learned on such an instru- 
ment. It is true that the virtuosoship is 
facilitated, but the strength of tone is impaired 
by such an arrangement. 

The ingenius artist Brume, however, was so 
great a master that he played even on violins 
the strings of which lay very high, although 
he did not know this. Many, again, are ac- 
customed to bridges that are very much curved 
towards the E string, because they did not 
know, when learning, how badly their violins 
were arranged. 


A correct system must be the foundation of 
everything, but as the thories in this art are still 
dead letters for most violin players, there have 
arisen fantastical ideas, especially among the 
greatest of them. Ole Bull did his best to im- 
part such ideas to others, yet many of them 
were, no doubt, excellent. Ole Bull always 
had a vehement desire to find something better 
beyond all possibility. Many of his ideas were 
contradictory to all the rules, and although he 
put some in practice he did not persevere in 
any of them for a long time, for a new idea 
occurring to him all others were supplanted 
by it. 

It happened once that Ole Bull was visited 
in New York by another artist, who was called 
the " American Sivori." He, as well as many 
others thought that Ole Bull had a perfeft 
knowledge of the structure of violins. Sivori, 
seeing that Ole Bull had a bridge on his violin 
which stood quite oblique for the upper part 
of the bridge was bent backwards by a quarter 
of an inch, adopted this idea. When his vio- 
lin had been provided with such a bridge he 
came to me, and with great satisfaction he 
showed me this queer position of the bridge on 
his violin. I was highly astonished at him that 


he could approve of an idea which is against 
all correct theory and is nothing but a farce. 
I then explained to him not only the conse- 
quences which must arise from it, but also the 
impossibility, by such an arrangement, of 
bringing to bear an even horizontal pressure 
on the bridge. But he thought that which 
came from Ole Bull was better than that which 
came from my knowledge. Let us see what 
happened later. In a concert of his, while he 
was playing with enthusiasm, the bridge fell 
and broke ! 

Another day an Italian artist came with his 
Maggini violin to show me where the sounding 
post must stand in his violin, having obtained 
his information about it from Ole Bull. I could 
not help smiling when I saw that the sounding 
post was placed quite near the/" hole. Upon 
expressing my surprise, he replied with the 
following insult : " What do you know about 
the position of the sounding post ? You are 
no violin player like Ole Bull, therefore you 
cannot know about it." My answer simply 
was : " Only a fool can talk to me in that way, 
and very soon you will find out that you will 
have to give up such an insane idea !" 

It was on the third day after that he came 


back begging me to place the sounding post 
in his violin according to my judgment. When 
he had apologized for his indiscretion, I fulfilled 
his wish. 

Thus I have become acquainted with several 
artists who constantly tortured their violins by 
getting the sounding post and bass-bar dis- 
placed. This proves a want of correct theo- 
retical knowledge, and through this ignorance 
they make the sounding post wander about 
the whole violin. 

The place of the sounding post can only be 
ascertained through the theoretical knowledge 
of the construction of the bottom and top of 
the violin. Many players think they can ob- 
tain the right tone by the position of the 
sounding post alone, but no sounding post can 
make good a fault in the construction of the 
bottom and top. 



It is an indisputable fa<5l, that of all produc- 
tions of art in the world, the Violin has been 
least understood. 

This wonderful instrument has remained an 
enigma to the musical world until now. How 
fortunate it is that this instrument does not 
understand human language, by which circum- 
stance it escapes that medley of critical re- 
marks which are made in its regard. 

It is, therefore, in the interest of art and its 
votaries that I have determined to present 
herewith to the public the results of my long 
experience obtained in making violins, and in 
examining those sciences connected with it. 

It is generally known that up to the earlier 
part of the eighteenth century the Italian mas- 
ters made the best violins, and with the death 
of those artists a decline of that art, too, took 
place. Those so-called classical instruments 


have been, especially of late years, eagerly 
sought at high prices, by all artists and ama- 
teurs, because a settled opinion has taken hold 
of their minds that nobody is able to construe! 
a violin which is fit for solo performances ; 
that the secret which the old Italian masters 
possessed is not yet found, and that new vio- 
lins, although constructed according to the 
rules of acoustics, cannot gain the desired per- 
fection until after the use of a hundred years. 
This, therefore, animated many violin makers 
with an endeavor to overcome that difficulty, 
but in vain ; at last Vuillaume, of Paris, was 
impressed with the thought of making wood 
look old by a chemical process, and he suc- 
ceeded in creating a furor with his instruments 
made of such wood, so that people began to 
believe the right course was being pursued. It 
turned out, however, that after a few years 
those instruments deteriorated, and finally be- 
came useless and proved a failure. 

This especially prejudices the minds of the 
virtuosi so far that they do not believe it to be 
possible to make violins which answer the 
general requirements of concert playing until 
they have attained a great age. 

Vuillaume has, therefore, by his chemical 


preparation of wood, injured this art seriously, 
because the previous prejudice was corrobora- 
ted thereby. Such prejudices stand in the way 
of progress in making good violins. 

But as everything in the world is going on, 
so the art of the construction of violins has 
not remained behindhand, and I can prove this 
to the musical world by my own experience. 

To the knowledge of making such violins as 
artists and amateurs demand, there belong be- 
sides ingenuity in carrying out the mechanical 
work a knowledge of the following three 
sciences, namely : mathematics, acoustics and 
the choice of wood. 

A knowledge of acoustics, which is most in- 
dispensable to the violin maker, cannot always 
be acquired, since it emanates from an innate 
genius, which makes itself manifest in the very 
choice of the wood. 

When by the aid of these sciences I had ar- 
rived by a natural proceeding at what I aspired, 
I made violins in imitation of the old Italian 
instruments and presented them to great art- 
ists and connoisseurs, and the highest author- 
ities of Europe and America. They pro- 
nounced them to be genuine old Italian violins, 
not only on account of tone, but also in regard 


to form and appearance. In this manner I 
broke that prejudice. I proved to the so-called 
" connoisseurs " that those violins laid before 
and acknowledged by them to be good, were 
of my making, hence they were new. If I had 
presented those violins as new productions of 
my own to those gentlemen, they would have 
condemned them forthwith and said that they 
would not prove good till they had reached a 
great age, and that they would perhaps in a 
hundred years equal the old Italian instru- 

In general, however, it is not taken into 
consideration that if a violin is not scientific- 
ally constructed the good quality of tone will 
never be obtained, either by much playing or 
by age. In applying the three above men- 
tion sciences I have gained not only the fine 
quality of tone, but also that ease with which 
the tones are made to come forth. 

But we must be thankful to the great mas- 
ters ; they have laid for us the foundation of the 
manufacture of violins, by which they became 

Their system, however, is but little under- 
stood by the present violin makers, because 
very few intelligent people devote themselves 


to this art, and the most of those who are 
learning it, practice it not in the way of art, 
but of business. What wonder, when even 
the greatest artist in Europe, Vuillaume, im- 
itated the very mistakes which the great Ital- 
ian masters made in regard to mathematical 
division. He did not consider that they, in 
improving the art, made experiments in regard 
to form, swell and different thicknesses in 
working out the bottom and top. But there 
are a great many professional men who, from 
exaggerated veneration, consider all produc- 
tions of those masters as law and beyond cor- 

I have discovered that the old masters did 
not arrive at perfection, but made mistakes in 
their mathematical division and in the work- 
manship of the different thicknesses of the 
bottom and top. Those faults I have endeav- 
ored to avoid in the manufacture of my violins, 
and I think I have solved this problem. 

Just so it is with the knowledge of tone. It 
is a great mistake to believe that it is only the 
player who has this knowledge. Experience 
has taught that playing and knowledge of tone 
are two different provinces, because the artist 
very seldom has an opportunity to make close 


study of the different qualities of tone, and is 
usually preposessed with his own instrument. 

If many solo performers had more knowl- 
edge of tone they would not so often play in 
concerts on feeble instruments, which are too 
old, too defective in construction, or have been 
spoiled by bungling workmen who were em- 
ployed to repair them. Such instruments often 
injure the solo performer exceedingly, and the 
critic is right in charging the to fault feebleness 
of tone. But the artist is generally satisfied if 
he only possesses an Italian violin. 

Also in the science of tone I have found the 
way to gain that experience by which I have 
been enabled to make a violin which will satis- 
fy an unprejudiced solo performer of the pres- 
ent and future. 

I have confined myself to the natural pro- 
cess which the Italian violins underwent, and 
I have put the problem to myself that it must 
lie within the bounds of possibility to construct 
violins which will bring forth good tones at 
once and not depend on a promising future for 
all their good qualities, and I have not been 
mistaken, but have secured what I sought. 

Many are still of opinion that the art of 
making violins and predetermining the quali- 


ties of tone, is a mere accident. This is, if 
taken in a general sense, true, because most of 
those who make violins scarcely know any 
more of it than a joiner, but the ability to 
construe!; violins according to the rules of art, 
requires a man who has enjoyed a technical 
education, and whoever has acquired the 
necessary capabilities knows the method by 
which the different qualities of tone may be 
produced and obtained. 

Above all, he who occupies himself with re- 
pairs can least dispense with these capabilities, 
since he is often intrusted with the most valu- 
able instruments ; but alas ! with what incon- 
sideration do those who possess such instru- 
ments often give them, for repair, to botchers 
and fiddle makers. 

This proves how great in this regard is the 
lack of correct judgment. Through such 
spoilers of violins most Italian violins have 
come to naught, because many who own such 
instruments think that whenever any one makes 
a neat piece of work and knows how to use his 
chisel, file and sandpaper, he is the man to be 
intrusted with such instruments. But where 
there is a lack of science, the repairer's work, 
be it ever so neat, may cause damage in half 


an hour which will be greater than can ever be 
made good again. 

If a violin maker constructs bad instruments 
it is his own damage, but to make bad repairs 
is to ruin the instruments of others, the crea- 
tions of masters. 

Neither is a violin maker who does not know 
how to construct excellent instruments a good 
repairer. Yet there are many who think that 
good repairers need not possess the knowledge 
of making good violins. But what a mistake ! 
It seems, however, wisely ordained by nature 
that even he who is less gifted and less learned 
may enjoy life, and thus gladly bear sacrifices 
in consequence of his error. 

This is the plain and simple explanation of 
matters in regard to the manufacture of vio- 
lins and the knowledge of tone, and those to 
whom this does not seem comprehensible may 
submit to a more thorough experience than 
they have gained until now ; in this case they 
will, after they have fully convinced themselves 
of it, sometimes remember G. G. 





MUSICK, No, 52, 1873. 

Jn the foregoing circular, treating upon vio- 
lins, I said : " It is indisputable that no pro- 
duction of art in the world has been less un- 
derstood than the violin." This truth has 
proved good again in Mr. Schelle's critique 
concerning violins, and it shows how little he 
is able to judge about them ! In his very in- 
troduction it is plainly shown that he has made 
no studies in regard to tone when he says : 
" Thus an idea came to Vuillaume to make, 
by a chemical preparation, wood to look like 
that of the old violins. Instruments made of 
this material excel in regard to their splendid 
and real Italian tone." 

Against this I assert just the contrary and 
can prove it to be nonsense by the fact that 
wood, when submitted to a chemical process, 
will produce a dry, covered tone, and the noble 


quality of tone that which affects the heart- 
is lost. 

Mr. Schelle then says : " We may also dis- 
cover a similar experiment in the instrument 
which Mr. George Gemiinder, of New York, 
has in the exhibition, under the ostentatious 
name of Kaiser Violin (Emperor Violin). Of 
course its manufacturer would protest against 
this insinuation, for in a little pamphlet he de- 
clares that by the assistance of three sciences, 
the mathematics, acoustics and knowledge of 
the wood to be chosen, he had not only com- 
prehended the system of Italian school, but 
had even discovered errors in it,' etc." 

Mr. Schelle further says : " There have been 
many celebrated violin makers who were gifted 
with the same talents and learned in the same 
sciences, yet they could not reach what they 
aimed at, in spite of their most strenuous 
efforts. We confess quite openly that in spite 
of his assurance we harbor the suspicion that 
Mr. Gemiinder has taken refuge in a chemical 
preparation of the wood. The violin in ques- 
tion, a faithful imitation according to Guiseppe 
Guarnerius, is indeed beautiful in its appear- 
ance and has a very excellent tone. But the 
extravagant, really American, price of ten 


thousand dollars could only be excused when 
its excellence should have been proven good 
in future," etc. 

From this (Mr. Schelle's) critique it is evi- 
dent that he has tried to throw into the shade 
the interesting production of art which I had 
in the exhibition, in order to be enabled to put 
the productions of the Vienna violin makers in 
a more favorable light. But this proves that 
only such persons as are destitute of sufficient 
knowledge to judge of violins may be trans- 
ported to such one-sided critiques, dictated 
either by partiality or other interests ; for if 
that were not the case Mr. Schelle ought to 
have blushed with shame in regard to that in- 
justice and disrespect with which he illustrated 
the experience of an artist and spoke of his 
talents and sciences, to which Mr. Schelle is 
as much a stranger as he is to the artist's per- 
son ! 

As Mr. Schelle takes into consideration that 
the violin at ten thousand dollars exhibited by 
myself must first undergo " a proof of time," 
it may be rather advisable for Mr. Schelle to 
take a lesson of Gemiinder, that he may learn 
those characters of tones which will prove good 
in future and which will not ; so that he may 


be able hereafter to show better knowledge in 
his critique upon violins ! 

From my childhood I have grown up in this 
art in Germany and have devoted myself to 
all those studies which are connected with it. 
The last four years in Europe I passed at Vuil- 
laume's in Paris, consequently I am acquainted 
with the entire European knowledge of the 
construction of violins. 

Since 1847 I have made violins in America, 
therefore my instruments do not require to be 
subjected to a " proof of time," for it is with- 
out such a one that I have solved the problem 
and secured at once the fine tone which all the 
preceding violin makers strove in vain to find. 
I obtained my purpose in quite a natural way. 
This knowledge, however, does not lie in an 
object whose secret is only to be secured by a 
patent ; it lies purely in the gifts of man. An- 
other century may pass by before this problem 
will be solved again. The closing page in Mr. 
Schelle's critique sounds like a lawyer's plead- 
ing in favor of a criminal. In this regard his 
writing is quite creditable, for he has well 
pleaded the cause of the violin makers of Vi- 
enna ! 

But then those words in my circular about 


violin makers proved true again : " This won- 
derful instrument has still remained an enigma 
to the musical world until now. How fortun- 
ate it is that it does not understand human 
language, by which circumstance it escapes the 
medley of opinions which have been given in 
regard to it." 

When, however, its clear tone was heard, 
and the easiness with which the tones came 
was noticed, then it became an enigma to pro- 
fessional men and they declared that this vio- 
lin was an original fixed up again ! 

But later, when it was objected to and found 
to be a new Gemiinder violin, it was ignored 
even in the newspapers. The Neue Wiener 
Tageblatt, of Vienna, called it afterwards " the 
false Cremona violin !" How envy here glared 
forth again ; for this violin was not exhibited 
as a Cremona violin, although it has been dem- 
onstrated that it had been previously really 
taken for a genuine Italian instrument. 

Its introduction as " Emperor Violin " had a 
force and pungency which tickled the profes- 
sionals, and what surpasses all belief is, that 
they themselves crowned the work. It was, 
indeed, the greatest premium that I could gain r 
in spite of all the pains which those men gave 


to themselves to deprive me of my merit. 
Thus a moral prize values higher than a piece 
of metal ? 

Although many mocked at the high price, 
yet no such violin could be made by all those 
deriders, should millions of dollars be offered 
to them. Therefore an unrivaled artist has 
the right to fix any price on his productions. 
Although an offer of $3,000 was made for it, 
yet nobody was charged to sell it, even if $10,- 
ooo had been presented. 

The newspaper of the exhibition of Vienna, 
published on the I7th of August, 1873 : "Ge- 
miinder found fault with the Italian construc- 
tions and those of Vuillaume." 

If Gemvinder had not extended his studies 
so far he would probably not have stirred up 
those matters which had given such a headache 
to those people of Vienna, for George Gemim- 
der became thoroughly acquainted with both 
the faultless and the faulty points of the Ital- 
ians in the construction of violins. If those 
people of Vienna had had the good luck to 
discover imperfections on the above mentioned 
constructions, then they would have made a 
great cry about it. 

The same newspaper says in another pas- 


sage : " The tone of this violin is indeed strong 
and beautiful and has an easiness that pleases, 
also it has not that young tone peculiar to the 
very best new violins." In saying these words 
the writer confesses the truth in his innocence, 
and this verdi6l crowns this violin again, be- 
cause this character of tone is just that one 
which all violin makers in the nineteenth cen- 
tury have been trying in vain to find. 

And further : " For this reason some pro- 
fessional men gave vent to the suspicion that 
the wood was submitted to an artificial prepar- 
ation, probably by the use of borax." Such 
was the nonsense to which this peerless violin 
was subjected, since there was none to take up 
its defence. The annexed description in which 
all chemical preparations were peremptorily 
opposed, was entirely disregarded by them. 
Thus there is no other way to advise those 
pseudo-professional men to have such borax 
violins made and patented ! 

To those gentlemen who call themselves 
professional men, I, George Gemiinder, declare 
that I am ready at .any time to sacrifice my 
" Emperor violin " or any other which I have 
made, and I propose to give it to the best chem- 
ists in the world to be cut to pieces, that they 


may examine the wood and ascertain if any 
chemical preparation has been used. If this is 
found to be the case they may be allowed to 
scold and blame me publicly as much as they 
please ; but, if nothing of that kind is found, 
they are to pay ten thousand dollars for the 
" Emperor violin." 



Page 70. Sentence beginning " He also 
tried to persuade them into the belief," &c., 
should read, " He also tried to persuade them 
into the belief that when new violins sound 
well and are serviceable for concerts they 
are made of chemically prepared wood." 

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